Beyond Infanticide: How Psychological Accounts of Persons Can Justify Harming Infants

The New Bioethics 24 (2):106-121 (2018)
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It is commonly argued that a serious right to life is grounded only in actual, relatively advanced psychological capacities a being has acquired. The moral permissibility of abortion is frequently argued for on these grounds. Increasingly it is being argued that such accounts also entail the permissibility of infanticide, with several proponents of these theories accepting this consequence. We show, however, that these accounts imply the permissibility of even more unpalatable acts than infanticide performed on infants: organ harvesting, live experimentation, sexual interference, and discriminatory killing. The stronger intuitions against the permissibility of these ‘pre-personal acts’ allow us to re-establish a comprehensive and persuasive reductio against psychological accounts of persons.

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Author Profiles

Daniel Rodger
London South Bank University
Bruce P. Blackshaw
University of Birmingham
Calum Miller
University of Oxford